Why Euro 2016 is going to be like an episode of Gogglebox for John Hartson


If things had worked out differently for John Hartson, he might have been on the bench for Wales' Euro 2016 campaign in France this summer.

Instead he'll be experiencing the tournament on both sides of the television screen, as both a pundit and - in true Gogglebox style - a viewer.

The former Arsenal and Celtic striker was on Chris Coleman's coaching staff until in 2013, with his wife pregnant, he decided to go all in with his media work and gave up his role with Wales.

John Hartson as a coach with Wales
(Mike Egerton/EMPICS)

A couple of years later, Wales were booking their place in their first major tournament since 1958.

"I left Arsenal in '97 and they won the double in '98 so I've got a habit of leaving on the cusp of something great," he said.

"I had Ian Wright and Dennis Bergkamp keeping me out of the side and I thought I should be playing. That was the way I felt at the time, and I felt with Wales it was an opportunity for me, but my wife was pregnant and I was offered longer and better terms by the BBC.

"I wanted to concentrate more on the media side and I felt I couldn't do both. I couldn't have given both my 100% attention. Something had to give."

John Hartson and Dennis Bergkamp celebrate an Arsenal goal
(Tony Marshall/EMPICS)

Hartson is clear that he has no regrets about his decision to move on - and why would he when he'll be in France this summer anyway?

He can leave the stress of the actual football to others while he takes his place among the BBC's team of experts for their coverage of the action.

"It's my first tournament as a pundit or a player, so I'm very excited," he said. "I feel very honoured to be part of the BBC team with the likes of the Henrys and the Shearers and the Linekers. All the big boys."

Not too much will be expected of Wales, who are featuring in the European Championship for the first time.

Gareth Bale celebrates Wales' qualification for Euro 2016
(David Davies/PA)

But if Hartson wants some grounds for optimism he only needs to talk to his BBC colleague Gary Lineker, who cheered his side Leicester on to Premier League glory this season - a success all underdogs will surely see as an inspiration from now on.

Hartson said: "Doing a Leicester, that doesn't happen too often, but the European Championship has a history of upsets if you look at Denmark and Greece, two teams who were given no chance really.

"I don't want to be putting pressure on Wales. First and foremost the lads would like to get out of the group. We're capable, we've got a good side: We defend properly, we've got good midfield players and we've got Gareth Bale.

"Certainly the first game against Slovakia is key. If we can get three points in that one it will set us up for a good group campaign and hopefully a tournament campaign."

Wales celebrate qualification for Euro 2016
(Adam Davy/PA)

When he's not busy offering his expert opinion on TV, he'll be on the other side of the screen watching from the sofa.

And if you're lucky, you might get to sit next to him.

"I'm involved with a campaign for Currys PC World," he said. "There's myself, Chris Kamara and Kirsty Gallacher. We're going to do a Gogglebox-type event, where people are watching the show and reacting as if the cameras aren't there.

"There'll be competition winners that are going to be invited in to watch the match alongside us. So they can come and join us on the sofa - like Gogglebox over a football match.

"I'm not one for going on Big Brother or the jungle or all these shows, but it's a bit of fun. I played with Chris at Luton and I know Kirsty from when she used to go out with Rio Ferdinand when I was at West Ham many moons ago."

And will this be the start of a second career in reality TV for Hartson?

"I was asked to go on I'm A Celebrity several years ago but I turned them down," he said. "I don't know whether it's for me.

"I've got young kids, I've got four little girls and a boy. I think my kids would love to see me eat a kangaroo anus or a leopard's testicle or whatever they eat on there. I think they'd quite like that, so you never know.

"You can't rule anything out in 2016."

John Hartson is supporting Currys PC World Ultimate Home of Football tour this summer. If you want to experience all the footy action in the latest 4K TV and Audio tech and fancy watching Portugal v Iceland on-board with John in Cardiff, visit www.currys.co.uk/footballwin